CHOKEPOINTS

Seattle area buses, trains, and ferries see 50% drops in ridership

Mar 17, 2020, 9:10 AM
Coronavirus transit ridership...
Buses have been empty across the Seattle area. (James Rynasiewicz, KIRO Radio)
(James Rynasiewicz, KIRO Radio)

If you’ve been out driving lately, you know just how empty the roads are. Transit agencies are seeing similar drops in ridership.

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We’ve been getting pictures of empty buses and trains for two weeks now. 97.3 KIRO FM producer James Rynasiewicz had three fellow passengers on his bus yesterday, a bus that is usually standing room only.

King County Metro is reporting a 45% drop in ridership since the social distancing rules went into effect and people started working from home. That’s 185,000 fewer riders a day.

The water taxi has seen a drop of a thousand riders a day.

Sound Transit’s John Gallagher said his agency has seen even more of a drop.

“Ridership has been declining over all modes of transit, that’s light rail, buses and Sounder,” he said. “They’re down roughly 50% as of late last week.”

Community Transit is reporting a 64% drop in riders on its Snohomish County runs to Seattle. Overall, it’s seeing about a 34% decline.

The state ferry system has also taken a hit, but Ian Sterling said it hasn’t been as bad as the other agencies.

“We’ve seen ridership decline significantly,” he said. “This is a slow time of the year for us anyway, but having said that, we’ve taken a pretty good hit, about 20% across the board on all routes.”

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He said it’s the walk-on riders that have really disappeared.

“Vehicles have not declined as much as you might think,” he said. “Walk-on passengers on our busiest commuter route, which is Seattle to Bainbridge, on some days has been down by as much as 50%.”

Vehicle traffic is down about 10%.

The ferry system is keeping a close eye on the numbers.

“We continue to operate a full schedule,” Sterling said. “We do have plans for reduced service if we have to go there.”

Sound Transit’s Gallagher said they haven’t really discussed a cut-back in service to match the current demand, and they plan on running for as long as they are able.

“Transit is an essential service during a public health crisis, and we will be operating vehicles for as long as we possibly can, until public health authorities tell us otherwise,” he said.

Transit agencies continue robust cleaning of their buses, trains and ferries.

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Seattle area buses, trains, and ferries see 50% drops in ridership